Ask Matt Labash, Vol. XI: Red Chinese, Kid ‘N Play, and Very Special Guest Star Willie Geist

Matt Labash Columnist
Font Size:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Have a burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

Do you think it would be a good time for a Kid’n Play reunion, and how do you think this would help the economy? – John P.

At last, a serious question. There is no longer such a time as a “good time” for a Kid’n Play reunion, since any time would be a good time. As our country’s wars produce no discernible winners, as confidence slips in our government, and as we face the continuing prospect of strangling debt, high unemployment, and financial ruin, the thing that can save us – maybe the only thing that can save us – is those two loveable party marshals from Queens, who sang in their 1990 hit song “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody”:

The time has come to enjoy myself/ I’ve left my problems up on the shelf/ The work day’s over and I’ve got it made/ Like Johnny Kemp said I just got paid/…..Look in the closet and pull out the hype gear/ Hook up my high-top fade and I’m outta here.

Since many of my readers are under the age of 12 (the level at which I write), I should enlighten them by asserting that Kid’n Play was perhaps the seminal good-time rap act of our age. If we have a sickness, they are the cure. As that fount of hip-hop scholarship, Wikipedia, relates, the group consisted of Christopher “Play” Martin, he of the leather eight-ball jackets, and Christopher “Kid” Reid, most identifiable for his legendary high-top fade, which looked like an Afro fez, and which topped 10 inches at its peak.

For an all-too-brief shining moment between the late eighties and early nineties, Kid’n Play conquered the world of hip-hop, Saturday morning cartoons, and even major motion pictures, starring in such vehicles as House Party and House Party 2, until they finally branched out, stretched themselves, and plumbed their artistic depths in what should’ve been the Oscar-nominated House Party 3.

Then they were gone. And yet, they are still with us, having left behind the legacy of their signature dance move, the Kid’n Play Kick-step, a Funky Charleston variation, best illustrated by watching this clip from the 1:19 to the 1:35 mark:

A true Kid’N Play story, if I may: About a year ago, I was attending a surprise birthday party for Tucker Carlson – his 60th, if memory serves. Being raised a Southern Baptist and a white person, I generally refrain from dancing at such events. But as the band played and the wine flowed and the Soul Train gantlet formed, everyone was expected to take a shot center-stage. A slew of jokers did the usual: The Sprinkler, Starting-The-Lawnmower, Putting-Up-The-Traffic-Cones. It was tired and strained. I was ashamed for my race.

But as it was my turn to strut my stuff, such as it is, I made eye contact with MSNBC’s beautiful and talented Willie Geist, now the host of Way Too Early With Willie Geist. Like Magic looking to dish to Worthy on the fast break, we didn’t need to communicate what happened next. Both of us just knew what was coming, like some recovered involuntary muscle memory from college parties back in the go-go ‘90s. We stepped toward each other, put our legs in the air, and kicked each other’s shoes twice, then turned around, walked two steps away, backed up, and did the no-look kick again.

We were flawless. Well not flawless, exactly. We missed a little. Or a lot. We looked like two drunk guys trying to stomp out a fire on each other’s pants. No matter—chicks dug it. I even got lucky that night (with my wife, but still…..). If only for those fleeting moments, people forgot themselves, and their troubles, and that Tucker is getting older and has lost several steps on the squash court, and that it is only a matter of time before failing health or dementia make him a shadow of the man we once knew, until he dies, forgotten and alone. It was a great evening.

But it’s selfish of me to hog the Kid’N Play reverie. I yield the floor to my dance partner, spiritual advisor, and very special guest star, Willie Geist, so that he can express what Kid’n Play means to him and by extension, America:

Willie Geist: Thanks, Matt. I remember very well that night of dancing at Tucker’s birthday party. I’ve never felt so alive in all my life. For a moment there, it was like we were the only two people under that rented party tent. I remember thinking to myself as we whiffed on yet another toe kick, “Is this what Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire meant by ‘dancing on air’?” At the risk of sounding blasphemous to purists of movement in space, we were not Rogers ‘n Astaire—we were better. We were Kid ‘n Play.

Look, I’m probably not qualified to answer John’s question about the economic impact of a Kid’n Play reunion. I’m no Paul Krugman. I don’t have a fancy Nobel Prize. Hell, I can’t even grow a beard. But one thing this simple country boy from leafy suburban New Jersey and the Upper West Side of Manhattan knows for damn sure is that half the battle in turning around an economy is psychological. You have to give the people a reason to once again believe in their country, and indeed in themselves. “Behavioral economics” is a term I once read when passing the green Money section of the USA Today on the way to the red Sports section. I don’t quite get it, but I intend to use it here.

A reunion of the very duo that set off the decade-long “house party” that was the 1990s would lift the country from its general malaise, restore economic confidence, and change the behavior of consumers from Takoma to Tallahassee. Is that how behavioral economics works? It’s hard to say. Anyway, a Kid ‘n Play comeback would remind the country of what we were not so long ago, and of what we still can be. I’m not the first historian to point out that the Cold War ended on Kid ‘n Play’s watch. Who’s to say their triumphant return wouldn’t wipe the planet free of nuclear weapons once and for all and stabilize world markets? To paraphrase Rocky Balboa’s famous “I Seen Changes” speech at the end of Rocky IV, “If Kid can change, and Play can change, everybody can change!”


Matt, who told the national media to change the name of Red China to China? — Dave S.

That is a very astute observation, Dave. I hadn’t even noticed. But you’re right. And I have no idea how or when this was decided. My guess is there was some meeting we missed between their government, Bai Ling and James Fallows. It’s always unforgiveable to racially stereotype, of course. But according to ethnographers who I haven’t read but who I’m citing on background so that I don’t get ticketed by Media Matters, the Chinese can be a very sneaky people, when they’re not crashing into things (bad drivers). So they probably just snuck it out of their moniker while we weren’t looking. Though even with their reforms of the last decade or so, they’re still as red as my face after reading an Ashton Kutcher tweet. Just try burning an American flag in a public square in Beijing as you can in America. Well, actually, they’d probably make you a general in the Red Chinese army if you did that. But try it with a Chinese flag. Then just tell them where you’d like your remains sent after they pick them out of the tank treads.

Sources close to the voices in Michael Moore’s head tell me that the Chinese now own everything in our country. Or at least everything that the Saudis/bin Laden family don’t. Not to sound paranoid, but it’s getting to the point where when I get a check for this column, I no longer spend it on hookers and blow and Haitian earthquake relief like I used to. I now just drop it off at my local Chinese restaurant, figuring they’ll send it back home to Mao, or whoever runs that country now, which is where all our dough is headed anyway.

This scares a lot of people who say we don’t make anything in this country anymore. But that’s defeatist. Just spend a day reading our blogosphere. We make mischief, and lots of it. I’d like to see the Red Chinese monetize that. Have at it, pinko arrivistes. Nobody else has figured out how to.

My wife and I are looking for a good Chinese restaurant in the Washington area. Do you have any suggestions? — P.F. Chang

Yes. I recommend Sesto Senso over on Connecticut Avenue, a place I frequent for the ravioli with a mushroom/Marsala sauce that I order off-menu. Strictly speaking, it’s not a Chinese restaurant. It’s an Italian joint. But it’s only a matter of time before the Red Chinese take it over as they do everything else (see above).

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is just published from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.